The British Museum collection of gothic
ivory carvings

Project team

  • Naomi Speakman, project leader
  • John Rassweiler, project curator

Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory 


  • In partnership with the Gothic Ivories Project at the Courtauld Institute of Art:
    Professor John Lowden, Project Director
    Dr Catherine Yvard, Project Manager

Supported by

  • Dr John H Rassweiler

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Gothic ivory carvings are delicate and highly prized items from the medieval period, which had a variety of religious and secular functions, such as a tool for private prayer or a romantic gift to a lady. They ranged from devotional diptychs and triptychs, croziers and statuettes to caskets, combs and mirror cases.

The British Museum owns one of the largest collections of gothic ivory carvings in the world, with a store of over 200 objects. A complete survey of these pieces has not been undertaken since 1909, but today curators are re-visiting these objects to make new insights and discoveries in this field. Together with the Gothic Ivories Project at the Courtauld Institute of Art, the British Museum is working to catalogue its collection and make it accessible through the Collection online and in the Courtauld online Gothic Ivories catalogue.

This includes providing high resolution images of the carvings and a review of the datation of these ivories, seeking to provide new, in-depth research into the provenance, bibliography and iconography of the pieces.

Further information  

187 catalogue entries of the British Museum’s gothic ivory collection can be viewed online through the Courtauld Gothic Ivories Project.

International Medieval Conference, Leeds, July 2011

The British Museum gothic ivories collection was presented by Naomi Speakman in the lecture ‘Forgery and Authenticity: Gothic Ivory Carvings from the British Museum’.

Statuette of the Virgin and Child

Statuette of the Virgin and Child.
French, 1275-1300.